Whatever happened to racer cool?

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So Nicky Hayden will be riding a Factory Honda at Phillip Island this weekend, standing in for the injured Dani Pedrosa, a case of the nicest man in racing deputising for the unluckiest.

I love Pedrosa’s current Samurai lid, and this got me thinking about what has happened to replica paint jobs. Sure, Arai issued a limited edition RX7-GP Joey Dunlop replica a couple of years ago, which looked stunning, and has reissued some classic paint on its Chaser V range – Doohan, Schwantz and Spencer designs – all of which look suitably cool, but there is a distinct lack of eye-catching designs across today’s racing paddocks.

I love a loud lid me – the louder the better as far as I’m concerned – but the helmets today’s racers sport are distinctly dull. Jakub Smrz was proudly flying the flag for cool with a distinctive pink and baby blue number in his WSBK heyday and debut BSB season, but has since reverted to a more subdued number to match his team’s colours.

Cast your eyes across the MotoGP and WSBK paddocks, and Rossi aside, with his regular one-offs, there’s a distinct lack of distinctive designs. Sure, Lorenzo tries, but his ‘Shark’ Shark was about as inspiring as his press conferences.

The only rider who seems to be pushing the envelope in recent seasons is Nicky Hayden, who has worn several versions of Starline Design’s innovative ‘face’ design.

The problem may be that helmet painters are finding their creativity limited more and more by riders (and the teams) sponsors. With an ever increasing number of riders signing sponsorship deals with the same few energy drinks companies, all of which insist on having their logos feature prominently on their riders uniforms, Monster’s green and Red Bull’s red, blue and yellow, are increasingly having to be incorporated into any design.

Compare this with the road racing scene, where the riders stand out far more. The helmets of Michael and William Dunlop, Guy Martin, Lee Johnston, Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes, Ryan Farquhar, Keith Amor, John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson are all easily identifiable as belonging to that rider, making it much easier for spectators to follow the action. Sometimes less is more…

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